Greedy Goblin

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Numerical data on going free-to-play

Everyone knows the eve-offline chart of player numbers constantly falling since the peak of going free-to-play:

But there is another chart there which people mostly ignore:

While the player engagement graph is already below the pre-F2P values, thanks to the continued corruption and catering to the "content creators" (Ghost training, 250M ticks, no conflict points), the new player graph is still nearly the double of the old value. So Free-to-Play indeed works to increase new player influx and the creation of new alts.

However the increased new player/alt count does not translate into increased player presence. Vast majority of these new players quit fast or play very little (if you play 1 hour a day, you show up as 0.04 player on the daily graph), otherwise their presence could be seen on the playing graph. For a game where players can't interact, it's irrelevant as having more players have no downside. But in MMOs and in PvP games these players probably cause more trouble than help by simply acting as garbage, clogging newbie content and overloading recruiters looking for new players before the eventual quit.

We can also compare the account ages of the CSM voters in 2016 and 17:
While the amount of young voters increased, it's not a bigger increase than what we see in older accounts (the overall vote was 50% up with no boycotts). The highest increase was in the 10+ years old!!! group, so the extreme amount of new alpha accounts did not turn into omega accounts which could vote. It seems that the most player engagement was gained among the oldest of players, probably because they resubscribed their super accounts to rat more.

On a different note, Wildstar also went free to play and if you haven't heard of them ever since, you are not alone:

It seems that going F2P (=/= being designed as F2P) will save no one.

PS: I didn't expect to be proven right so fast on my yesterday's prediction. Please check out the update at the end.


Anonymous said...

Wildstar was doing very poorly before and after F2P. I think the common denominator is Wildstar. EVE will have EVE's issues, regardless of its monetization.

"It seems that going F2P (=/= being designed as F2P) will save no one." Old school and/or hipster commenters like to criticize F2P and there are a lot of problems with any monetization method. But C'mon. Struggling DDO went F2P in 2009. Its fellow-Turbine game, LotRO, went F2P in 2009 due to the success of the DDO conversion. SWTOR's conversion in 2012 has been financially quite successful. So there are three conversions to F2P that quickly come to mind as successful. Terra and some NCSoft games were at least arguably successes.

Tithian said...

Quite a lot of MMOs went F2P successfully, and it allowed them to continue running for years - almost a decade. They may not be huge breakaway successes, or even game you personally would enjoy, but they are financially in the black. Some of them even put out free expansions, so clearly things are working out.

Wildstar is dead because it was an attempt to re-create 2006 WoW almost a decade later, when people were already starting to become hugely dissapointed with the traditional PvE themeparks. Having played it at launch, it was the only MMO I dropped before my "free" month was over. The combination of idiotic marketing, ultra-hardcore elements and cartoony graphics made it seem like a game made by man-children, for man-children. F2P did nothing because the conversion did nothing to change the gameplay elements that made people not want to play the game in the first place.

On the other hand EVE's F2P model seems to be there simply to be taken advantage by the veterans for free alts, is it really that surprising that the conversion rate to Omega accounts is miniscule?

Shalcker said...

I want to point out to this presentation by Richard Bartle for interesting idea on why F2P conversions might or might not work, and what exactly can be monetised depending on target audience.

Smokeman said...

The Wildstar devs should have watched Bartle's presentation, and if they did, paid a lot more attention. They basically made a game too hardcore for the MMORPG audience.

The same thing would happen to WoW if the hard core types got their way, for example... making dungeons hard and raiding harder. If the only raid avenue was Mythic difficulty, the game would depopulate overnight. Hell, even if just Heroic and Mythic were left, the same would happen.

This ain't 2010 when leveling and world stuff was still a thing, the end game has been solidly released from it's bottle and it's not going back. And that end game had better be casual friendly.

And... full circle, this is why Eve cannot retain players. The end game is either too stupidly boring to survive (You're an F1 jockey!) or too mercilessly difficult to cater to anyone but people willing to have 10 accounts and devote 10 hours a day.

Gevlon said...

@Smokeman: the reason why Wildstar failed wasn't "too hardcore" but
- mixing two kind of hard: grinding (work ethic) and dancing (WASD skill). One who enjoyed being competitive in one was frustrated by the other
- retarded graphics and lore. While hardcore players don't care much about the beauty of their orcs, going full retard turned lot of people (including me) from trying it out
- extreme amount of bugs and lag

I'd like to remind you that WoW subscription was growing in vanilla and BC, flatlined in WOTLK and falling ever since.

Cathfaern said...

WoW subscription flatlined in Cataclysm, it was still growing in WotLK.

Gevlon said...

While there was a minimal growth in WotLK (at the end, where the LK raid wasn't TOTAL joke), Cata was a clear fall.